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An Experimental Evaluation of Popular Well-Being Measures

  • Martin Kroh
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    Drawing on data from two multitrait multimethod experiments carried out in the context of the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP), this paper identifies questionnaire designs that minimize measurement error in reports of subjective well-being. Among the survey instruments most often used to measure well-being, the analysis focuses on three response formats (11-point, 7-point and magnitude satisfaction scales) and three modes of data collection (self-administered paperand-pencil questionnaires (SAQ), personal paper-and-pencil interviews (PAPI) and computer-assisted personal interviews (CAPI)). Results show that both the choice of a response format and the choice of a mode of data collection make a difference in terms of measurement error: The 11-point satisfaction scale and both CAPI and PAPI improve the quality of subjective well-being data. The paper also reports differences between response formats in terms of their ease of administration and illustrates that the choice of a survey instrument affects conclusions drawn from applied well-being research.

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    File URL: http://www.diw.de/documents/publikationen/73/diw_01.c.43968.de/dp546.pdf
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    Paper provided by DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research in its series Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin with number 546.

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    Length: 28 p.
    Date of creation: 2006
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:diw:diwwpp:dp546
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    1. Kenny, Charles, 1999. "Does Growth Cause Happiness, or Does Happiness Cause Growth?," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(1), pages 3-25.
    2. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, . "Happiness, Economy and Institutions," IEW - Working Papers 015, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
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    5. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, . "What can Economists Learn from Happiness Research?," IEW - Working Papers 080, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
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    10. Ulf Olsson, 1979. "Maximum likelihood estimation of the polychoric correlation coefficient," Psychometrika, Springer, vol. 44(4), pages 443-460, December.
    11. Winkelmann, Liliana & Winkelmann, Rainer, 1998. "Why Are the Unemployed So Unhappy? Evidence from Panel Data," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 65(257), pages 1-15, February.
    12. M. Stones & A. Kozma, 1985. "Structural relationships among happiness scales: A second order factorial study," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 17(1), pages 19-28, July.
    13. Clark, Andrew E & Oswald, Andrew J, 1994. "Unhappiness and Unemployment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(424), pages 648-59, May.
    14. Martin Kroh, 2005. "Surveying the Left-Right Dimension: The Choice of a Response Format," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 491, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    15. Randy Larsen & Ed Diener & Robert Emmons, 1985. "An evaluation of subjective well-being measures," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 17(1), pages 1-17, July.
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